We have so much going on in our lives, so many balls in the air, it’s not hard for us to get stressed. 21 years ago Daniel Goleman wrote about this in his bestselling book ‘Emotional Intelligence’. He talked about our fast pace of life and how our triggers for stress are now going off all the time.
The military and police have tactical control strategies to help them manage stress when responding to typically stressful situations. The stress is generally described as a burst of adrenaline - our ‘fight or flight’ response. These situations can often be highly critical and can involve handling weapons. It is reasonable to expect anyone handling weapons to be able to do so professionally and carefully. You could view the car and other road vehicles as a type of weapon. You’re protected in a case of metal and glass, you can travel at high speeds and you have a lot of power and control at the wheel, especially compared to vulnerable non-motorised road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, and people driving mobility scooters.
All of us will have heard about road rage at some point in our lives, whether we’ve experienced it ourselves, seen examples on dashcam videos, or heard about incidents in the news. Sometimes, these incidents are fatal. Although there are no disaggregated statistics for road-rage or aggression related deaths, we can ascertain some meaning from fatalities and injuries relating to excessive speed, following too close and illegal turns or direction of travel. These incidents can no doubt occur from the build-up of stress where a driver is simply not in good and reasoned control.
Combat breathing was developed to help police and military personnel deal with the ‘fight or flight’ reactions in their body because once those reactions have started it’s very hard to turn them off and they need to be able to control themselves in dangerous situations. The breathing technique is considered an important part of their training because it helps them gain control, focus and manage stress. In addition, it appears to help control worry, anxiety and panic attacks. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s a really easy technique.
You can do this anytime, anywhere, so maybe next time you’re stuck in traffic, have a go at combat breathing so that you can help control stress levels, prepare for the rest of your journey, and make it safer for you and others.
Rachael Quinn, WSP Intelligent Transport Services
Note: This article is the second in Rachael Quinn’s ‘Only Human’ series. Other articles will cover aspects such as sleep, and technology in the field of transport.